by Trenton Straube
Ross Hayduk grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia, “in the shadow of the Appalachian Trail” as he likes to say. Though San Francisco is now home, Hayduk recently returned to his roots. On September 6, 2012—his 45th birthday—as he reached the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, he became the first HIV-positive man to hike 2,084 miles of the trail in less than six months, putting him in the “2,000-miler club” and raising more than $6,000 for HIV/AIDS service organizations like the National AIDS Memorial Grove.
“My HIV status directed many of my decisions for my hike,” says Hayduk, a professional fundraiser and regular volunteer at Pets Are Wonderful Support–San Francisco. “I had to carry a month’s worth of HIV and bipolar medications. I could not stay in shelters for fear of hantavirus carried by shelter mice, so I was forced to sleep in my tent most nights.” His fondest memories of the trek include the “trail angels” who left snacks and sodas in coolers along the trail, and “fellow thru-hikers who affirmed me as an HIV-positive hiker and sustained me with their friendship.”
And yet he hiked solo on nearly 120 days. “I realized I am very much a people person—it was not good to be alone in the wilderness,” he says. “I am glad to be back.” We’re glad to have him back—and to ask him a few questions.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Be out. Be out as a gay man. Be out as a poz man. Be out to reduce stigma and to give a face to HIV/AIDS.
What is your greatest regret?
Being introduced to crystal meth. An eight-month struggle with addiction resulted in my contracting HIV in 2004.
If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?
The stigma surrounding HIV. Being considered diseased, dirty, ruined and sick by HIV-negative guys.
What is your motto?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” [said by] Eleanor Roosevelt.
Search: Ross Hayduk, Harrisburg, Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin, National AIDS Memorial Grove
Scroll down to comment on this story.
comments 1 - 5 (of 5 total)
Brandon Allen, Atlanta, 2013-06-26 14:34:18
I truly admire you for your bravery and selflessness that you betray. I often wish that I could do something extraordinary to support the HIV and Aids stricken communities. I was introduced to crystal meth at the age of 21,and struggled with getting clean for 12 or so years I also contracted HIV because of the drugs and the effects it had on me. I am also Bi-polar so caution has to be taken to stay on track with all three types of disease. Its a constant juggle. Addiction, HIV,Behavioral health
Sr. Dinah Might, If You Ask Her Right, San Francisco, 2013-05-19 13:05:42
My most heartfelt congratulations to Ross for completing this hike and making history! Way to go, Ross!
Sr. Dinah Might
Dick Peters, San Francisco, 2013-05-15 01:06:29
I think the statements made & the basic premise of the first paragraph are absurdly presumptive! Is an HIV test required to make this trip? To assume that no other HIV man or woman has accomplished this task because they didn't advertise their status or appear in POZ magazine is insulting to all the members of the POZ community! I participated in Gay Games at least 3 times while HIV POZ, winning my competition twice. I may have been the first person to accomplish this, how would anyone know?
Sister Mary Juanita High, San Francisco, 2013-05-14 02:09:17
Ross Hayduk is an amazing man and a great example of what sheer determination can achieve. I am honored that Ross chooses to live here in SF and share his genuinely generous spirit with the rest of us.
Derrick Mapp, San Francisco, 2013-05-13 14:56:30
comments 1 - 5 (of 5 total)
Simply an inspiring hike Ross. And now a Bare Chest Calendar Man. That is called "walkig the walk". I like the idea of transcending your struggles by finding ways to helping others. You deeserve the recognition. Derrick